GODZILLA (1998) And The Defense Of Adaptation

It might be bad, but that doesn't mean it's without purpose.

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Westernized adaptations catch a lot of hell. By and large, that hell is deserved. But that doesn’t mean that those adaptations are without their merit. Let’s say you grew up in a tiny, Podunk little town with one theater screen. You’re young, maybe nine or so, and you’ve spent your childhood years wearing out your dad’s VHS copies of Godzilla (1954) all the way to somewhere around Destroy All Monsters (1968). There’s one movie store in your little town. It’s a Blockbuster, and the local teen working the front desk probably thinks Ghidorah and Mothra are prescription drugs. In short: if your dad doesn’t already own it from the time where he didn’t live in said tiny town, you’re probably not gonna find it anytime soon.

If that example sounds oddly specific, that’s because it’s me. We all want folks to have a film education, but some of us had to start a little later in life. As a little girl, I got lucky that my dad just so happened to be super into kaiju in his younger years, and kept all of his Godzilla and King Kong movies. The gap between ’54 and ’68 has like nine movies in there so far as Godzilla is concerned, but anything past that year was out of my reach for the foreseeable future. Enter Godzilla (1998).

I’ll be honest, I did a revisit of the movie for this editorial. Nine-year-old me and 29-year-old-me have some deeply different opinions about the film. Broderick’s earnestness is exhausting, Godzilla is unfortunate, Maria Pitillo’s wannabe reporter is infuriating, and they kill all the baby Godzillas! But adult me isn’t the point here. It’s the kid getting a chance to see Godzilla on the big screen for the first time that matters.

Godzilla (1998) might be a Westernized adaptation that was met with some pretty unfortunate reception, but it’s only because it’s an adaptation made for a more general audience that it ever made it to me in the first place. It’s easy to gatekeep when we hear that someone gets into a franchise later in life, or did so because of an adaptation, remake, or reboot, but the fact of the matter is, it’s those adaptations, remakes and reboots that keep the franchises we love alive.

Nine-year-old me stared in awe throughout the entire one hundred and thirty-eight minute run time. Why is this movie so long? Adult me has no idea. Kid me would have watched twice that had the content been available to her. My first in-theater movie was Jurassic Park in 1994. If you follow me, you know that obsession for dinosaurs never went anywhere. It blew my little mind that I could see not just dinosaurs in a secluded park, but giant kaiju ripping across Manhattan on the big screen.

There’s no doubt that Godzilla (1998) is a questionable movie at best, but that questionable movie helped encourage an obsession that would follow me well into my adult years. We have the internet now, but try to be mindful of kids who grow up in rural areas, or in households that might discourage something as farfetched as giant monsters acting as unlikely champions for the shitty humans that made them. That adaptation or remake might not have been for you, but you can bet it brought at least a few new fans in who could grow to love the franchise as much as you do.